The fascinating thing about this project is that it was born out of a collaborative event. One that came from conversations I had with neighbors that the Delridge District Council fostered.
I had been volunteering with the North Delridge Neighborhood Council (self-organized neighbors) for a little over a year before I learned that the next level up to be informed and have a voice to advocate for the neighborhood was at the District Council level. So, I began attending yet another neighborhood meeting in the evenings once a month. What I learned is that this was the channel through which the different city departments shared information pertinent to the various neighborhoods.
For example, the main road being repaved, as a Department of Transportation (DOT) project, a manager came to the district council meeting to share the plans and details. The neighborhood council could too, but usually the city only did outreach to present to the District Councils.
Now, using my own experience, I can share that it was while I was sitting in one of the Delridge District Council meetings that I met Michael Shilley, a Highland park neighbor. He had a vision for an event to honor unsung heroes volunteering in the area, and asked for collaborative help. As a Delridge neighbor, I was happy to join the team. We invited others to join us in the process, but it came down to just the two of us to carry through all the logistics.
We had many people help with specific tasks such as the event table decorations or printing and formatting our programs. And, the District Council was pivotal in lending us some connections to resources as well as help sorting through all of the nominees we wanted to honor. The council was never overbearing or dictating the format or inclusiveness of the event. While sorting through all of those nominated, we decided to honor them all!
The Delridge District Council put a retired, first-generation Scotsman together with a Native American, young mother to see a beautiful event come together to celebrate a variety of volunteers in our community. The Gathering of Heroes event was the seedling for this photography project.
So, while I wanted to stay out of the on-going debate of the Mayor’s actions to dissolve the District Councils, I cannot stay silent about the negative accusations building up against my neighbors. The people who take time away from their families during dinner time to show up and help keep their neighbors informed. The people who ask questions and write letters when there is concern for plans drawn up by people in departments who do not reside in the neighborhoods being affected.
From my perspective, the District Councils provided a forum for all neighborhoods to be represented. As it looks now, with no set format to replace it, the power to allocate funds per each neighborhood with street improvements, for example, is behind closed doors and has no accountability.
While the reorganization of the city neighborhood districts from 13 to 7 would make this project easier to accomplish – shining a light on those doing good in each district (profile and portraits of up to 10 volunteers per district = 130!) is the aim that feels daunting, reducing the number would help! But, the way in which this is happening, makes me want to keep with the old neighborhood district lists.
And, in full disclosure, I am an optimist, hopeful that the shake up and redesign will yield a better future. I hope the transition process is only rough due to a lack of transparency and mutual respect being communicated through out this experience.
Perhaps the stories and people profiled that help Seattle keep shining will help us all to see the good being done in our neighborhoods.
The photos I’m sharing here were taken during an ALL city District Council meeting hosted by the Delridge District Council on July 20, 2016 to sort out how to work with the city during this time. I hope they reflect the dedication and passion for working together for the better expressed. Yes, not every District Council attended. Yes, there are a LOT of white people in the room. But, these are the people who show up. These are the people working for the neighborhood without getting paid. They are engaged in the process to be informed and help others have a voice in the projects the city does to make improvements.
3 thoughts on “Seattle Shining Through: Dismantling District Councils”
The people who SHOW UP are doing the work to improve their neighborhoods! The District Councils have done that. The City is already taking applications for PACE (People’s Academy for Community Engagement) but are people going to volunteer for this, who have not yet volunteered and been involved in neighborhoods?
That’s the question much like – which came first: The chicken or the egg?
Seems like the city could better support the district councils and expand their outreach with translation help to reach out to others more. Hard to know what the right next steps are, let’s just hope we can all learn to work together after this transition period.
Our Northeast Seattle groups are waiting to see what will happen in September. I have received many inquiries about whether councils at the local level will dissolve (like Wedgwood Community Council) but as you point out in your article, it is at the district level that there are questions. http://www.wedgwoodcc.org/2016/07/26/districts-and-councils/